In another thread, a cry for help rang out. It -- well she actually -- wants an actual recipe for Gravlax. And why not?
The term, in this case the Norwegian version, literally means "dug salmon." Most likely it's the etymological consequence of the need to keep temperatures low, above freezing, and constant -- which resulted in burying the wrapped fish in a pit.
Yield: A lot
Skill level: Beginner
1 3lb segment or side of salmon
1 oz (approximately) aqvavit, gin, tequila or vodka
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbs fine ground white pepper
2/3 bunch dill sprigs
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbs white pepper
1/3 bunch dill sprigs
Buy the best quality, highest fat content salmon possible. You'd like something around 10% fat or even higher, and that means buying from somewhere other than the supermarket. If you don't know where to purchase, call your favorite fish restaurants and find out who supplies their fish.
No matter how good your fish monger -- check for scales and remove any (s)he missed. To do that, hold the spine of your knife, gently, firmly, and perpindicularly against the skin and rub the suspicious areas vigorously back and forth. The scales will flake off.
Rinse the fish thoroughly, and dry.
If you bought a segment rather than a filleted side, fillet the segment into two (duh) sides. Trim to remove the fins, trim the ribs, and remove any thin sections of belly. If you're using a whole side, you'll want to take off the last few inches at the tail end -- which are better grilled, anyway. You're trying to create a piece as uniform in width, thickness and texture as possible.
Remove the pin bones with a needle nose pliers or tweezers which you keep reserved for fish work. Although some tearing is inevitable, do your best to keep it minimized when removing the pin bones -- although some tearing is inevitable. Tips: (1) To fine the pin bones, close your eyes and rub your fingers over the surface of the fish. (2) To avoid tearing, use an appropriate tool to grasp the bone and follow the direction of the bone.
Rinse the fish thoroughly again, dry it well.
Lay the the two pieces of fish, skin side down on a pan so the tail end of one lines up with the head end of the other. Splash a little gin (or whatever) on the flesh of each side. Use your finger tips to spread it evenly.
Note: If your pan isn't big enough to hold both pieces flat, use (get this) two pans -- one for each piece.
Mix the salt, sugar, and pepper for the first cure. Sprinkle one piece of fish generously.
Lay half of the dill sprigs for the first cure on that piece of fish, arranging them equally. Cover the dill sprigs with almost all of the remaining cure -- reserving a couple of tbs. Then cover the cure with the remaining dill sprigs. Sprinkle the remaining tbs of cure onto the unseasoned salmon. Finally, make a "gravlaks sandwich" by turning the piece without the dill onto the piece with the dill.
Cover the pan tightly with cling wrap.
Place a weighted pan on top of the wrap to press the fish, and hole in the refrigerator for at least 72 and up to 96 hours.
Note: Alternatively, you can keep the curing period down to as low as 24 hours for more of a "sashimi" type taste.
After 24 hours, drain the liquid, turn the fish, replace the cling wrap, the weights, and return to the refrigerator.
After 48 hours, drain the liquid, refresh the cure and dill with the "Second Cure" ingredients, replace the wrap, the weights and return to the refrigerator.
After 72 hours you can either remove the fish, or give it one more turn and another day.
Whenever you finally do remove the fish -- rinse it thoroughly and dry it. Using the sharpest possible knife, slice pieces off the skin. Slice pieces as thin as possible -- and by thin, I mean really, really thin. I.e., translucent if not transparent.
PS. This recipe is original with me. If you like it and want to share it with someone else, you have my permission on satisfaction of each of the following two conditions: First, your sharing is not for gain; and second, you attribute it to me, Boar D. Laze. I would consider it a kindness if you would also mention my eventually to be finished book, COOK FOOD GOOD: American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates.